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NFL exec: ‘desire’ to get NFL players into 2028 Olympic flag football

Flag Football

Nov 10, 2022; Munich, Germany; An oversized football with the NFL Flag logo during NFL Flag Football community event at the FC Bayern Campus. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A high-ranking NFL official is open to the possibility of active NFL players competing in Olympic flag football’s debut in 2028 in Los Angeles.

“I think there is a desire to work through a process that has NFL players as part of LA ’28, but I would never discount the talented flag football players playing that discipline of our sport today at a very high level,” Peter O’Reilly, NFL executive vice president, club business, international and league events, told media Tuesday, according to a transcript provided by the NFL. “Ultimately, that decision on the makeup of Team USA is a decision of USA Football and the national governing body or the governing bodies around the world in similar roles.

“The answer is we will continue over the stretch ahead. Obviously, we are one day out from the announcement [of flag football being approved for 2028].”

It would be a multi-step process for active NFL players to compete at the 2028 Olympics.

First, the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), based in France, would have to allow it. The IOC has to approve Olympic qualifying procedures.

“I think that IFAF’s proposal and what LA ’28 put forth to the IOC [to get flag football into the Olympics] was not predicated on NFL players,” O’Reilly said. “Clearly the athletes in our game are at the highest level of our game, and we will work towards that. But having firsthand watched the best in this sport at the [2022] World Games ... there is incredible talent across the world.”

Then, it would be up to USA Football to decide whether to include NFL players on an Olympic team.

The NFL and the NFL Players’ Association would also likely have to agree, too.

The Los Angeles Games are scheduled to take place in the second half of July in 2028. That’s typically when preseason training camps open.

“We think it’s a great opportunity ... because the player interest is real and palpable,” O’Reilly said. “So I think there is a desire to work through with those stakeholders and get to that outcome for July, in a window that is at least in the first week prior to a veteran reporting date [for training camps], far out from now in 2028.”

Olympic participation is mixed among the four major U.S. team sports.

NBA players have competed in traditional Olympic basketball since 1992, but no active NBA players took part in 3x3 basketball’s debut in Tokyo. None are expected to take part in 3x3 in Paris next year, either.

WNBA players took part in both basketball events in Tokyo and could do so again in Paris.

Active Major League Baseball players have never participated in the Olympics, which always take place during the MLB season.

NHL players took part in the Winter Olympics from 1998 through 2014, but the league didn’t send players to the last two Games.

There is plenty to sort out for Olympic flag football over the next four and a half years.

How will Olympic qualifying work? How many teams and players will be allowed? Will the U.S. get automatic spots in the men’s and women’s tournaments as host country? As in 3x3 basketball, will players have to participate in a minimum number of flag football competitions to become Olympic eligible?

Qualifying procedures for Olympic sports are usually published around two years before the Games.